NY proposes closing two North Country prisons

correctional_375bState officials today released a plan to close four state correctional facilities in New York, including a prison in Chateaugay in Franklin County and a prison in Wilton in Saratoga County.

More than 430 jobs in the North Country region could be affected.

“I was very surprised and disappointed to learn today of plans to
close the Chateaugay Correctional Facility,” said Senator Betty Little, in a statement released shortly after 4pm Friday.

“My concern is for the correctional officers who would be affected and
their families.  Without a doubt, the closing of a facility is a financial
blow to them and the community.

The plan is sure to face significant opposition from NYSCOPBA, the prison guard union.  The Cuomo administration said in a statement that the cutbacks would save taxpayers $30 million a year.

“There has been an overall decline in the inmate population largely due to a 15% decrease in the state crime rate over the past 10 years, a 13% reduction in the number of violent crimes, such as homicide and assault and a dramatic reduction in the number of drug offenders,” according to DOCS officials.

“Since 1999, the prison population in New York has declined by almost 24%, from a high of 71,600 to approximately 54,600 incarcerated today.”

These proposed cutbacks follow closure of two state facilities in the Adirondacks over the last five years.

NCPR will have more on this story Monday morning during the 8 o’clock Hour on Monday.

Here’s the full statement from New York state Sen. Betty Little:

“I was very surprised and disappointed to learn today of plans to
close the Chateaugay Correctional Facility,” said Senator Betty Little.
“My concern is for the correctional officers who would be affected and
their families.  Without a doubt, the closing of a facility is a financial
blow to them and the community.

“I’m working on gaining more details and what can be done to prevent
the closure.  There are a lot of factors to look at including the security
and safety of the system.  Also, the state has to weigh the financial
impact on the community and the potential for reuse.

“Other regions of the state not only have a better capacity to absorb
the economic impact of a closure, but the real estate is of much higher
value. Camp Gabriels, abandoned in 2009, still sits mothballed.  And the
27-acre Lyon Mountain property just sold at auction to the lone bidder for
the asking price of $140,000.”

Here’s the full statement from NYSDOCCS:

The New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision today announced plans to continue to reform the state’s prison system that will save taxpayers over $30 million annually following a substantial reduction in the state crime rate and drug offenses which has caused a shrinking inmate population and less of need to keep more prisons open.
Under the reforms, four State correctional facilities will be closed in one year on July 26, 2014, which will allow for a gradual transition, providing affected employees with more options for positions within the Department and other agencies.
There has been an overall decline in the inmate population largely due to a 15% decrease in the state crime rate over the past 10 years, a 13% reduction in the number of violent crimes, such as homicide and assault and a dramatic reduction in the number of drug offenders.
Since 1999, the prison population in New York has declined by almost 24%, from a high of 71,600 to approximately 54,600 incarcerated today. At the end of 1996, there were 24,085 drug offenders in custody. By comparison, on December 31, 2012, that number reached a new low of 7,053, which represents a reduction of 71%. 
This is the lowest number of drug offenders since 1986, a majority of whom were serving their sentences in medium security facilities and Shock Incarceration Programs.
“In response to a reduced crime rate that has shrunk our inmate population, we are continuing to right size the state’s costly prison system and saving taxpayers tens of millions of dollars annually. This reform plan was made with careful consideration and detailed analysis to ensure we are not impacting the safety of each facility’s employees and the public,” Acting Commissioner Anthony J. Annucci said. 
“Over the next twelve months, we will have the beds available in the system to transfer those inmates from the four facilities and not impact the safety of staff, the inmate population, or the public. No inmates will be released early due to the closing of a facility, and we will not have to seek any temporary, double bunking variances from the State Commission of Correction. In fact, we have even reduced the number of double cells in our maximum security facilities by 337 this year,”
The State’s closure plan includes one minimum security facility: Monterey Shock (Schuyler County), and three medium security facilities: Butler (Wayne County), Chateaugay (Franklin County) and Mt. McGregor (Saratoga County).  The dramatic reduction in drug offenders has resulted in shrinking populations at these prisons. 
A number of years ago a large portion of the Shock Incarceration population was comprised of drug offenders.  Monterey was the Department’s first Shock facility. At one time both Chateaugay and Butler were used as alcohol and substance abuse treatment facilities to provide a special program for addicted offenders. Mt. McGregor was also once used to house a significant number of drug offenders.
Now however, with the changing demographics of the inmate population and the steep decline in imprisoned drug offenders, these facilities no longer fulfill the same Department need they once did.  
The closure plan proposes preventing layoffs by transitioning employees to other facilities.  Since most of the prisons slated for closure have other correctional facilities relatively nearby, employees will be transferred to those facilities.  In some cases, employees will actually be able to move closer to home. 
For those with geographic restrictions, the state will work with the Department of Civil Service to facilitate employment opportunities in other agencies.  The one-year advance notification will allow for a gradual transition and more options for affected employees as other funded positions within the
Department become vacant during the next twelve months. In addition, this efficiency plan calls for a limited number of medium security dormitories, previously closed, to reopen.  This will provide further options for employees currently working at the facilities designated for closure.  As of July 22, 2013, there were 549 staffed vacancies within the Department’s network of medium security correctional facilities.

19 Comments on “NY proposes closing two North Country prisons”

  1. Peter Klein says:

    I’m sorry but I had to laugh when I read this.
    Because a friend of mine has served some time at McGregor and Lyon Mnt for smoking and having pot.
    The joke for me is that wherever he went, the prison gets closed.
    But why was he there except for the fact of the stupid drug law.
    Should you break the law? No but the penalty just doesn’t fit the crime.

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  2. Joe says:

    Seems to me their has been a reduced amount of jail time. How many times do you see articles in the ‘for the record” type section of the paper that “he is on parole” or “he was on probation” or “he has a lengthy criminal” record? NY state is letting criminals out early to reduce the population. I see more crime than ever in my local paper. I see less jail time being handed out. It’s all fine and dandy to save a few tax dollars until it’s you or your family that becomes the victim of one of these guys that should be in jail but aren’t because or governor wants to close jails.
    It’s the squeaking wheel thing. The criminals and their families complain that jail sentences are too long. The general law abiding citizen says nothing. Sooooo the jail times get shortened and jails close. Sooner or later a governor will want to take this state back and not have any jails to house the criminals in.

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  3. Ken Hall says:

    Do any of the hard line “there is more crime than ever before” folks recognize that there are far more homo sapiens living on spaceship Earth than ever in the historical past? With the Earth’s resources being consumed at an exponential rate (commensurate with an exponential increase in the human population) accompanied by more and more young humans being forced to accept a decreasingly smaller slice of the “good life” pie because the obscenely wealthy continuously ratchet up their demands for an increasingly larger slice of the “good life” pie, I am amazed that serious crime is not exploding in volume.

    Using drug laws (such as those passed by Rockefeller in NY and similar laws in most if not all states comprising the USA) to create jobs in the North Country and throughout the USA via outrageously racially biased penalties against our non-white (caucasian) fellow citizens has been and continues to be a despicable and disgraceful mind-set employed by the power brokering citizens of NY and the USA. The rationalization of the incarceration of non-white folks for decades for the possession a few grams of crack cocaine, while the more affluent whites with a preference for much larger quantities of powdered cocaine if they are brought to “justice” garner virtual slaps on the wrists, is an example of one of the multitudes of laws that enable a blatant continuation of the effects of Jim Crow Laws “nation wide” which were purportedly ended by LBJ in 1965. Enabling the white power brokers in their disgusting endeavors are the cadres of white foot soldiers whose mind-sets have been inexorably altered by the media depictions of the non-white (soon to be in the majority in the USA) as miscreants to be feared by all god fearing and freedom loving “white Americans”, paid for and brought to the USA by her 1%ers.

    WOW! I just had an amazing insight into the 2007-2008 world wide economic collapse, which I had been under the misconception was orchestrated by the miscreant white power brokers on Wall Street, was in actuality caused by the miscreant “non-white” power brokers on Wall Street; BOTH OF THEM!

    Steal groceries, smoke a little crack cocaine, steal some gas get caught go to prison and create jobs for the lawmen, justice system and incarceration industries. Steal a few hundred million dollars, foreclose on 20 million home owners, destroy pension funds, collapse the world economy, get bailed out, do not even have the dark cloud of wrong doing be associated with your name and after the little folks have been economically raped for your benefit you end up with more than you had before the crash; HELL-OF-A-DEAL! Sounds fair to me.

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  4. John Warren says:

    “More than 430 jobs in the North Country region could be affected.”

    That is completely irrelevant. Prisons are not a jobs program. Betty Little should be ashamed of herself for continuing to push to keep prisons open for purely political purposes.

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  5. Brian Mann says:

    John –

    You may view the loss of 430 jobs as irrelevant. My guess is that the people in Chateaugay and Wilton do not. Governor Andrew Cuomo has argued that prisons should no longer be used as an economic development tool for rural New York. Fair enough. But for four decades they explicitly were used in that fashion, by political leaders who included his father. Even those in the prison reform community who are pushing most adamantly for the closure of additional correctional facilities speak frequently about the need to help “prison towns” transition to something else. My point is not that prisons should be maintained for political or economic reasons. My point is that the debate about the future for the many North Country towns with correctional facilities is complex. Finally, if I read Sen. Little’s argument correctly — in this statement and in past interviews — she’s not arguing that all NYS prisons should be kept open. She’s arguing that economic factors should be considered when deciding which prisons to close.

    –Brian, NCPR

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  6. Two Cents says:

    if communities had nothing going on before the prison came to their town, we should not be responsible to keep them on life support or help them transition to something.
    put on your big boy pants and move on. stop looking for a hand out.
    in the perfect future there will be no more crime, so no need for prisons or police, so consider the closings a revealing look into the future, you’re blessed to be on the cutting edge of reform.
    now go find rewarding careers and stop moaning over not being able to lord over your fellow man.
    I hear they are gonna need waiters at the new Saranac lake hotel planned.

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  7. The Original Larry says:

    Hit the wrong key there, sorry.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  8. mervel says:

    I am surprised that anyone would think that prisons or any government program was not a jobs program?

    One of the biggest considerations in our school debates are jobs, and public investment in our communities. That is part of the benefit of government spending it provides a consistent level of jobs support that does not go up and down with the economy, sometimes those jobs are needed, sometimes they are not, but the jobs themselves are very very important in a chronically poor region of the state.

    If you care about the poor in the North Country you would support any government spending in the North Country, including prisons.

    Do we need this many prisons? I don’t know, probably not. But that is not relevant to this discussion, if we need fewer prisons than close them in the wealthier areas of the state. Jobs should be consideration when reducing government spending.

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  9. Paul says:

    I thought not long ago we were talking about how prisons were overcrowded. We go down 24% and not they are empty? Am I missing something with the math?

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  10. Paul says:

    Can we get all those CA prisoners they have to release and fill our empty cells?

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  11. dan3583 says:

    It’s very easy to oversimplify, and I am aware of the pain caused by lost jobs. My wife and I have experienced (apporiximately) a 50% reduction in our real income the last few years. Having said that, a few things bother me about these issues:
    -people complaining about their taxes seem to want to continuing supporting highly paid and benefit rich state positions. How do people think these jobs are funded?
    -the conversation about SLPC and corrections usually revolves more around jobs then services. The impact on the mentally ill is far more important to me than the jobs, and I don’t believe we keep prisons open to keep people employed.
    We will pay a high societal and economic price, in part because we go at these types of problems from the wrong perspective.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  12. Paul says:

    Don’t worry the new state land they just bought is going to produce at least 430 new river rafting guide jobs. We just need to do a little retraining!

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

  13. Adam says:

    These “jobs” are just a milking. Prison guards do absolutely nothing. Believe me. They sit at a desk for 8 hours a shift and laugh at taking taxpayer dollars. People commit crime. I get that. That is a choice that people make. Eventually, they will do something stupid enough to land them in jail forever. A real prison. Attica, Sing Sing, etc. Not silly minimum security prisons where they get taken out to clean up neighborhoods. Isn’t that someone’s job they are taking? Close Em up.

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  14. George says:

    Wow, Betty Little is clueless, she needs to be out of NYS politics.

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  15. Jake says:

    I think the point is they are not locking people up for committing crimes. So they create openings to lower prison populations. Which they should be closed. Are we safer on the street? In a few years it will swing back the other way. That’s how it goes. Three strikes and you’re out is not even close it’s more like 10 strikes and maybe will hit you with a few years next time. Anyone who thinks Correction officer are over paid and do nothing should take the job. The State has a hard time finding people who want the job. As far as over paid: If getting spit on and having bodily fluids thrown on you etc… Breaking up fights on a regular basis is the norm, then they don’t get paid enough.

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  16. Marlo Stanfield says:

    If we don’t need the prisons, we should close them. I wonder sometimes, though, if we’re moving too fast. Crime might be down now but that doesn’t mean it won’t go back up. A huge chunk of the drop is partially attributable to policies in New York City that the next mayor or police commissioner might change. And heroin use, which feeds a lot of the violent and property crime, is going up in a lot of the state. On the other hand, part of the decline is likely permanent, due to the changes in the drug laws.

    One thing that makes this conversation tough is the lack of any independent way to verify what’s really going on in prisons and how crowded or empty they are. Whenever this debate comes up, the state trots out their statistics, NYSCOBPA says there’s still a lot of overcrowding and double bunking, and none of us really know what’s true.

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  17. mervel says:

    Prison are the number one industry in the north country. Whatever you think about his area and about who we are, it does not matter, if you want your taxes to go up, if you want your home values to go down, if you want your schools to become more expensive and smaller if you want your welfare dollars to increase and if you want more people to be poor you will support closing prisons. This will relate to many things, why keep an emergency room open at all if we lose our number one industry, let alone go part time? This is a very big deal and I suppose if you have no children and live on a trust fund it is all well and good, but for the rest of us employment is important. All government spending is about jobs, it is either spent here where we really need it or it is spent somewhere else. The taxpayer in NYS will save nothing if we close these north country prisons.

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  18. Avon says:

    Of course prisons are not a jobs program!
    Any society becomes less productive, not more, if the jobs they depend on consist solely of locking one another up more, massaging and doing one another’s nails more, walking each other’s dogs more (if you’re in NYC), delivering all of each other’s purchases, and whatever else America seems to be turning to for “jobs” these days.

    No household could survive economically if every family member had no “job” but charging all the others for doing shares of the housework.

    Our society won’t regain economic health unless and until our jobs actually create something of value, rather than everyone merely juggling all our own personal chores and charities among everyone else.

    To the extent prisons are necessary, we have to pay people to lock other people up. And the relatively few communities with prisons may profit from doing that. But let’s never kid ourselves into thinking it helps the State’s economy. Like repairing storm damage or repeating a grade in school, it’s an unfortunate burden – and the less of it, the better.

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